Category Archives: Blog

How to be a photographer, with a nod to Guy Tal

Scot Pine Roots

Scot Pine Roots, Shieldaig

 

How to be a Poet (to remind myself)

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill-more of each
than you have-inspiration
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity…

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensional life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.”

Wendell Berry

The American landscape photographer Guy Tal quoted this in part up on his Facebook page a couple of weeks ago.  I love the work of Guy Tal and his writings and have quoted him elsewhere on this site.  Photography comes across as being very meditative for him.

somewhere near kinlochewe

Somewhere near the A’ Ghairbhe, Torridon

 

The poem got me thinking, as it resonates so strongly for me.  But, at the same time there is a part if me that thinks “easier said than done”.  I’m writing this on my mobile phone in an acoustically deafening sports hall as my lad does indoor rugby training.  Every squeak of shoes on the sports hall floor, every blast of the coaches’ whistles, every bounce of someone sitting down hard on the bench jars me to my very core.  I want to explode.

There is always that internal discourse going on to put the phone down, turn off Twitter, stop looking at blogs.  How though, as someone more introvert than extrovert, do you learn, evolve and improve without the stimulus and feedback of those you find on line (and occasionally meet in real life!)?

I honestly don’t think that we can escape technology and it’s “progress”, but we can enjoy those quieter moments when they present themselves.  A couple of weeks ago I was away in Torridon, North West Scotland, on a workshop led by David Ward.   Nothing gave me greater pleasure than to lie in the snow, in the dampened silence, and look upon a scene and drink it in.  I didn’t always take a photograph – somethings don’t always transpose well I feel. (Sitting beside a roaring log fire, gazing into the flames and drinking a reasonable malt also gives me great pleasure I should add.)

What I have learnt, in retrospect, from being on the workshop, is that it is the quieter more intimate image and not the bigger classic landscape that gives me the most pleasure.  The subtlety of observation in the detail versus the need to get it all in – though there is enjoyment in taking them, there is just not as much.  No doubt I will post some of the classic landscapes I took on here in due course, but it will be the detailed images that will give me the most pleasure when I share them.

With photography it’s the quiet moments that it creates that are as much a part of my photographic practice as taking an exposure and pressing the cable release.  Moments of quiet in this hectic always on, always available, always contactable world, are valuable  and we should appreciate them when those moments present themselves.

Rydal Cave, The Lake District

Rydal Cave, The Lake District

Forever Autumn

We are, I guess, in the non-season between Autumn and Winter, where the trees are on the whole de-nuded of leaves, but its yet to be “properly” cold to have frost on the ground (well in South Yorkshire at least).

I started this Autumn thinking that I was going to miss it and all its glory, and I probably on the whole did  miss it, as the actual bit of Autumn where you have golden colours in the trees was very brief – not helped by some heavy rain and high winds which would have helped the leaves on their downward decent.  My biggest regret was that I didn’t get to visit a spot that I had reccied out in The Peaks during the summer that held a lot of potential.  This was further compounded by not being able to get to the Lake District this year for my usual camper van trip, as said camper van was broken :( (Its fixed now!)

That said I have, I feel, made the best of the time that I have had to get out in the Autumn and have created possibly the best photography of Autumn that I have to date.

 

Clumber Park

Clumber Park is a great location to visit with mixed woodland and a lake that usually has mist long after it has cleared from the surrounding country side.

 

Padley Gorge, Derbyshire Peak District

Padley Gorge in the Derbyshire Peak District (or Padleygeddon as I sometimes call it) is one of those classic Autumnal go to locations.  That said, for all its honey pot qualities, I always wonder how many great locations people drive past to come here in the Autumn that are closer to their homes (its 20 mins from my home).  I was only here for half a day at the very end of October and in Lower Padley, towards  Grindleford Station, the trees were bare.  Thankfully at the upper end of Padley Gorge there was still some colour where I got to use my Fujifilm Velvia 50 on and some Kodak Portra 160 as well.  I discuss using the two different films here.

 

Lady Canning’s Plantation, Sheffield

So instead of widening my horizons, I’m constricting them.  Lady Canning’s Plantation is on Ringinglow Road in Sheffield on the way out to Higger Tor in the Peak Distirct and can’t be more than 10 minutes drive from my house.  In fact the Peak District boundary is only a couple of hundred yards from this wood.  The wood is mainly of pine, but there are some deciduous areas near the main road which add to the place.

Weir, near Ashford in the Water, Derbyshire Peak District

A mention for Paul Newcombe, who shared this location on Flickr.  Its a lovely location, complete with three mills of varying types – you just need a smoke generator and it would be perfect (#joke!).  (also visiting a couple of weeks earlier would have been better too).

Weir on the River Wye, Derbyshire Peak District

The Truth of Colour at Padley Gorge

I’ve finally got round to scanning the films and negs that I took at Padley Gorge back at the very end of October.  One of the things that makes (I feel) using film more challenging (and rewarding) than digital is the difficulty of trying to get a good exposure, there is a degree of skill that needs to be acquired in order to use film properly.  I’m not for a moment suggesting that I have that skill, as I don’t get out often enough I think to keep my eye in and be confident about clicking the cable release once and moving on.

One of the things that is beginning to interest me is colour intent , or put another way what sort of feeling can be conveyed through the use of colour.  During my visit to Padley Gorge in the Derbyshire Peak District I took the opportunity to try Fujifilm Velvia 50 and Kodak Portra 160 on the same scene.  Fujifilm Velvia 50 is a very rich and saturated colour slide film, well suited to rich Autumnal scenes that are wet.  When using it, I try to keep all of the image within 4 stops.  Kodak Portra 160 is a colour negative film that offers (I feel) a very muted colour palatte and it offers a great deal of dynamic range.  When using it I tend to find the darkest area that I want detail in and then under expose by 2 stops. e.g. 1/15 becomes 1/60  and so on. (Thanks to Tim Parkin for that advice).

Below are two shots, one in Velvia and one in Portra, both taken at the same spot and cropped nearly the same.  I think the colour rendition is best summed up as one of them will make an ideal greetings card  and the other a good print.  I wouldn’t say that one is less “honest” than the other.  At present I think I have a “Velvia eye” and a “Portra eye” where I can approach a scene and decide which works best and under what conditions.

 

Padley Gorge Velvia 50

Padley Gorge Velvia 50

Padley Gorge Portra 160

Padley Gorge Porta 160

 

 

 

Location, Location, Location

As I type this, I should be in the Lake District, however due to a series of issues with my camper van I scratched that and spent the last couple of days turning the vegetable patch, doing daddy taxi service, planting onions and a variety of garlics and also going for the occasional short walk.  Enough about how I roll, you’re here the photography.

Today I visited a wood I haven’t visited before, its nine minutes from my home, its still inside the Sheffield City boundary, though not that far from the Peak District (about 50 yards!) and it was lovely and quiet.  The wood was a bit of an odd choice, as its a pine wood This is the time of year that I should be chasing down the last of the colour in the broad leaf woods in the Peak District, having not had much in the way of opportunities this Autumn to get out.  That said, I felt like a change, and having taken a long detour on the way home, there are still patches of colour in the woods in the more sheltered parts of Sheffield and the Peaks which should stand me in good stead for next weekend.

It was good to be challenged by a new location that I wasn’t familiar with.  The wood also was blessedly quiet and still, so it was ticking my boxes a lot.  The only complication at times was that it was rather sunny first thing this morning, but that issue soon sorted itself out :)  With the low Autumnal sun, it make for some interesting light when it did shine.

In my wanderings I came across some interesting graffiti cellophaned between the trees, off the beaten track and out of sight of any path – so unless you knew it was there or were like me wandering you’d never see it.  Quite interesting and very slightly erotic.

On the whole a very productive day, with a goodly number of rolls of 120 shot, including an old formulation Velvia 50 courtesy of Tim Parkin.

 

A quick wander through Bolehill and Padley

I had a quick wander (accompanied by the kids) through Bolehill and Padley Gorge today.  A lot of the trees are bare now, but there is still a lot of colour to be making do with.  Bumped in to Mr Chinnery for the first time as well.

 

Here are some quick sketches from the day.

 

Padley Gorge 1 of 4

Padley Gorge 1 of 4

Padley Gorge 2 of 4

Padley Gorge 2 of 4

Padley Gorge 3 of 4

Padley Gorge 3 of 4

Padley Gorge 4 of 4

Padley Gorge 4 of 4

Bolehill Quarry 1 of 2

Bolehill Quarry 1 of 2

Bolehill Quarry 1 of 2

Bolehill Quarry 2 of 2

Clumber Park Redux

I did try and post this on Facebook, but the colour graduations (is that the right word?) are that gradual that the image appeared very blocky/pixelated.  So here is a Velvia 50 taken at Clumber Park of something that is not a million miles different to what I took on my Canon G15.  I think the key difference is that there is less noise (and lots more dust and dirt marks!).

Clumber Park Lake

Clumber Park Lake

Clumber Park

Got up early today to go to Clumber Park, having missed out on the chance last week to go with Rob Knight, Andrew Atkinson, Ian Burton, and Damien Taylor, due to Thing 1 having a rugby match in Doncaster.  However today addressed that.  I took a fair number of “sketches” and quite a lot of rolls of film – I’m still persevering with Portra 160 (at least until my stock runs out), so was trying out a different approach – unfortunately I left my note book at home, so there will be  a lot of guess work when it comes to what worked and what didn’t.  I am happy to report that it was very misty at Clumber Park today :)

The below are all hand held sketches taken with my Canon G15 during my short walk around Clumber Park (so they are a bit noisy) – I’m sure it took me five hours to cover about 2 miles.  Starting with the lake I moved on in to one of the many woods that are in Clumber Park, but it was still close enough to the lake that there was some residual mist to add drama to some of the scenes.  They aren’t the best of shots, but I hope it conveys a sense of the place.

 

Clumber Park IClumber Park IIClumber Park IIIClumber Park IVClumber Park VClumber Park VIClumber Park VIIClumber Park VIIIClumber Park IX

Recent Peak District sketches

Autumn is definitely on the way.  It might still be unseasonably warm, but the colour in the trees is starting to change, and opinion amongst some on Twitter is that when the temperature drops we will get a very quick Autumn – which may possibly scupper my plans  for a long weekend in the Lake District in November.  So with an eye on the colour, I’m keeping my plans flexible (and the camper van fully stocked!)

 

Here are some recent Peak District sketches from a new place that I found via Google Earth in the Peak District that is only about a 20 minute drive from my house.  Its a lovely spot with a pond and plenty of oak, I’m quite looking forward to exploring it further once the colour in the Peak District starts to change a bit more.

 

Recent Peak District Sketch V

Recent Peak District Sketch V

Recent Peak District Sketch IV

Recent Peak District Sketch IV

Recent Peak District Sketch III

Recent Peak District Sketch III

Recent Peak District Sketch i

Recent Peak District Sketch I

Recent Peak District Sketch

Recent Peak District Sketch

Pinhole Photography Project eBook

 

Ties to the Land Pinhole Photography eBook

 

As some of you may know I have been working for just over a year now on my pinhole photography project called “Ties to the Land“.  I’ve been working in the background on two books related to the project, the first an ebook and the second a handmade book of about 10 photographs from the project.  After months of procrastination and a little prompting I have now produced the ebook of the photography project for free download from http://tiestotheland.co.uk/downloadable-ebook/.

 

I hope you get the chance to download it and have a look at the first 24 photographs from the project?

Recent Sketches from Padley Gorge and Bolehill

I’ve managed to get out around the Padley Gorge/Bolehill area twice in as many weeks.  Which is good.  Unfortunately, as is becoming the way, the big cameras didn’t come out, so I will have to make do with these little sketches.  You can certainly tell that Autumn is coming.

Padley Gorge Fungi

Padley Gorge Fungi

Padley Gorge Light

Padley Gorge Light

Under Owler Tor

Under Owler Tor

Under Owler Tor Detail (hat tip to Dav Thomas)

Under Owler Tor Detail (hat tip to Dav Thomas)